How Twitter is Changing Vending-Machine Technology

It’s always funny and a bit amazing when old tech seamlessly gets blended with new tech. I don’t know if Hot Wheels is the first to do this, but the company is certainly the first to get a bit splashy piece in Ad Week for this idea: The car toy brand has road tested a vending machine that was able to dispense free Hot Wheels when a customer tweets right in front of it. Customers have to use a specific hashtag and at a specific handle, and that’s enough to have the machine “recognize” where you are and then make with the free toys.

According to Mark Stewart, director of digital for TrojanOne, the company that made the vending machine, it all works thanks to “a device that employed the kind of spinning coil machine that dispenses candy bars, though it was retrofitted with a tiny, Internet-connected computer.”

All told, it tripled the Twitter handle being pushed (@HotWheelsCanada) and has started to spark a debate about whether we’ll be seeing more of this kind of thing.

And honestly, I don’t see it being limited to just Twitter. It makes great sense to connect it with FourSquare or other social media apps that revolve around location.

The real question is whether it’s something companies will be interested in offering open endedly or only during certain hours or times. The aforementioned Hot Wheels campaign only took place at the 10-day Canadian International Auto Show. If it was not, how could Hot Wheels have possibly anticipated how many tweets it would have received beyond that length of time and not have customers frustrated that they’ve run out of stock in the machine?

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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